Envision yourself walking down a street in Jerusalem, (or Boro Park, NYC) and seeing people, both young and old, dressed as anything from Jesus, to a clown, to a Power Ranger, to Raggedy Ann. Shops are full to overflowing with every kind of costume for both child and adult, and the bakeries are selling small triangle-shaped pasteries called Hamentashen. It is not uncommon to walk through the Orthodox neighborhoods and see inebriated men both young and old, because, on this holiday, one is actually supposed to get drunk!
What? You may ask, is all the fuss about? Is it Halloween in the wrong season? Nope. It is the Jewish festival of Purim. Purim is the commemoration of the Biblical story of Esther, and it is a festive time in which both the secular and religious dress up, drink, and meet together to read through the entire Book of Esther. Drunkenness is encouraged on this holiday and the Babylonia Talmud actually says that “It is ones duty, levasumei, to make oneself fragrant (with wine) on Purim until one cannot tell the difference between ‘arur Haman’ (cursed be Haman) and ‘barukh Mordechai’ (blessed by Mordecai).” So basically one should no longer be able to tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai. While there are different interpretations of exactly how drunk one is required to get, many people take the commandment very seriously.
This year Purim begins at sundown March 20 and ends the following evening. Purim is generally a light-hearted and fun holiday. Synagogues are full of people who gather for the reading of the book of Esther. Everyone has some sort of noise maker and every time the name of Haman is spoken, people boo, hiss, and make lots of noise.
Here is a picture of a traditional pastry that is seen around Purim. This cookie has a very interesting and confusing history which this article explains better than I ever could! ttps://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/2872815/jewish/The-History-and-Meaning-of-Hamantaschen.htm
Stay tuned for real-time pictures from Purim 2019!